Considering today is Halloween, the dev team and I wanted to share with you a story about what inspired Daylight’s location, the fictional Mid Island. It’s an abandoned, desolate place with the façade of any other island in the New England area, but bears deep scars in terms of unspeakable events that took place there and at its most infamous location, the Mid Island Bay Hospital.
While a lot of the environments in our game are a hodgepodge of various haunted locales around the country, there’s one very real, very personal experience I had growing up that truly inspired the feel of Daylight. This is that story…
The town that I grew up in had a Rockwellian main street, a neighborhood drug store that still served phosphates, rows of corn as far as the eye could see, and an abandoned mental facility known as The Sheldon Buildings.
Built in the 1900’s, the Sheldon Buildings were left to rot after accusations of abuse and misappropriated funds shut the place down.
In the late ’90s, the city finally sealed up the underground tunnels beneath the facility, knocked down the brick buildings, and vomited up a few acres worth of McMansions.
Prior to the hospital disappearing into the suburban miasma of Applebees and mid-life crisis martini bars, I got the chance to wander through it.
The Sheldon Buildings were actually a town within a town, with their own theater, power source, fire and police department, indoor, and outdoor pool, clock tower and living quarters. Running underneath the buildings and linking them all together were a series of underground tunnels.
According to rumor, they were used for everything — benign use like transporting supplies between buildings, to the more sinister: transporting and abusing patients. The grounds were completely encompassed by a tall, brick wall, which seemed to have one official entrance.
Surrounding this wall was a “forest.” I write that in quotes because, while I am sure the forest was probably something to behold at the beginning of the 20th century, by the time I snuck my way in it was nothing more than a small patch of trees within a highly manicured state park.
There was a hole in the hospital’s brick wall that allowed me to get through, and I was not prepared for what I saw. The place was MASSIVE. My courage ran out way before areas to explore did. That said, I did manage to force myself into the indoor pool building, the indoor theater (which was badly burned but still had red velvet curtains hanging within the stage area), the clock tower, the patient dormitory, and one of the medical wings.
The tunnels at the time were accessible, but you couldn’t pay me enough to go in there. Graffiti was sprayed over all of the tunnel entrances with murals that looked like the gaping face and mouth as seen in The Candyman movies. An additional deterrent was the fact that everyone knew Satanists held their rituals down there.
The scariest part of the whole thing was the dormitory which led into a medical wing. There were no ghosts, no dead bodies, no Pyramid Head waiting to jump out at me from a shadowy corner. The scariest part was how everything that had been used on a daily basis when the hospital was in working order had just been left there — as if all the doctors and nurses just up and left everything one day, never to return.
Patient beds with pillows and linens were strewn about the rooms. Personal files with real names; descriptions of illnesses written in a nurse’s cursive, and pictures of children littered the floor. Some were even still filed away in their steel cabinets.
The absolute worst was in one small room, off to the side of the main dormitory area. Someone had carved “HELL” into the door with a pocketknife. Creaking the door open a sliver and peeking inside, one could see a neatly made bed. Sitting atop the pillow was a plastic baby doll, dirty but still in good condition, its head turned so that it stared at the door as if waiting for its owner to come for it.
It was as if the tidy bed and doll were a type of shrine dedicated to the children that had been kept there. A little girl or boy left behind, just as the doll was, within the confines of a cold and terrifying environment. Poked and prodded until he or she either learned how to pretend to be “normal,” or grew too old, considered too beyond help, and were freed to suffer in a society that had no place or patience for them.
It was that feeling of abandonment; of sadness and loneliness and of the discovery of a mystery that I wanted to try and capture within my writing for Daylight. I want the player to come along with me. Back to when I was a teenager. Back to when I was too young to know better and too old not to be scared. To be my partner in crime as we explore the urban myths , the forgotten people, and the seedy underbelly of a small town.
I bet that doll was still sitting there. Still staring at the door. Still waiting to be found when the bulldozer came.